Ending the Year: Final Dinner at Dragon Hill Lodge

July 13th, 2016

On Saturday, July 3rd, over 100 English Teaching Assistants met in Seoul at Yongsan Military Base’s Dragon Hill Lodge to have one, final dinner together as the Class of 2015-16. Of those who attended, 81 Fulbrighters will join the ranks of more than 1,400 Fulbright Korea Alumni currently living in the US and abroad. 38 ETAs have chosen to renew for their second and third years. As alumni of Fulbright Korea, many of us commemorate the gathering as an inherently bittersweet moment of the grant year. A longstanding milestone of the Fulbright experience, Final Dinner is a time of reflection and a time, for many, to say final goodbyes before parting ways.

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The 2015-16 ETA Cohort

Executive Director Jai Ok Shim commenced the event with an opening address, where she thanked the assembly of ETAs on the (near) completion of yet another grant year, while also extolling the “exceptional” work of Program Coordinator Amelea Kim and Executive Assistant Ben Harris. After Director Shim concluded her speech, Mark Canning, a Cultural Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Seoul, took the stage and gave advice to those who would soon be leaving the Fulbright program, informing them of several opportunities to take advantage of in Korea after the grant year, specifically scholarship programs like the Korean Government Scholarship Program, the Korea Foundation Fellowship, and graduate studies scholarships offered at Yonsei University and Seoul National University. Canning likened the “decisive” experience Fulbrighters gain to the life-changing experience of Kathleen Stevens, the Ambassador to South Korea from 2008-11, when she taught in South Korea as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

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Robert Little presents his community garden FKAF project

Next was the customary final dinner slideshow, which was organized this year by first-year ETAs Allana Wooley and Robert Little. The video can be viewed here. After that were FKAF project presentations by Allana Wooley, who created a student newspaper, Robert Little, who cultivated a student-led community garden, Katrin Marquez, who made art with her students, and Mave Wall and Alessa Strelecki, who worked with elementary school students with disabilities. ETA performances included Abhik Pramanik and Matt Walters as the K-Pop idols “GD & T.O.P.,” Emily Shoemaker and Hillary Veitch’s “Foreign Teacher’s Daily Life: A Musical Rendition,” and “Beyonce on Fire,” a dance choreographed and performed by Kingsley Leung and Monica Mehta. Finally, as per tradition, David Stewart (2013-16) delivered his emotional Final Address, summarizing the year and offering some perspective for those to come.

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Kingsley and Monica’s “Beyonce on Fire”

Looking back, it is easy to see how engaged this year’s Fulbrighters have been in their communities. Not only did they support flagship programs, such as North Korean English Defectors tutoring, Youth Diplomacy Leadership Conference, and FKAF community and research grants, but they also spearheaded entirely new initiatives. Throughout the dinner, ETAs had the chance to appreciate this year’s many distinguishing moments and milestones:

After the dinner, many ETAs and alumni gathered in Hongdae, where they descended upon an after-party event organized by FKAR. The festivities lasted well into the night, with ETAs and researchers relishing one of their last nights as Fulbright Korea grantees, as well as the countless memories and friendships they forged over the year. On behalf of Fulbright Korea Alumni Relations, we wish those leaving South Korea the best of luck in their future endeavors. As Director Shim put it during Final Dinner: “You can take the ETA out of Korea, but you can’t take Korea out of the ETA.” Though the hackneyed phrase may be a bit worn out, the fundamental meaning it expresses holds true: no matter what we choose to do in the future, the moments we shared in this country will continue to shape us long after.


ETAs Run for Resettlement

July 13th, 2016

Year after year, Fulbright Korea grantees choose to commit their time and energy to interact with, and hopefully improve the lives of, North Korean defectors, whether that be through tutoring English, attending conferences, or volunteering for other local organizations. This past June 12th, a group of 17 ETAs came to Seoul to do just that—only this time, with their running shoes.

Grantees pose with NKHR volunteers and staff

Grantees pose with NKHR volunteers and staff

This was the Kim Dae Jung Peace Marathon, an event sponsored by the Kim Dae Jung Peace Center. The race itself was divided up into 5k, 10k, and half marathon segments, and it began in Yeoeui-do Hangang Park and ran along the length of the Han river. Kim Dae-jung, whom the marathon was eponymously named after, was president of South Korea from 1998 to 2003 and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for “his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea…and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular.” Along with inaugurating the accommodating “Sunshine Policy,” Kim arranged a summit meeting in 2000, the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration. One result of these diplomatic meetings was that family members in the North and South who had been separated during the Korean War were allowed to meet in Pyongyang and Seoul. This year’s Peace Marathon was held the weekend of the 16th year anniversary of this historic declaration.

Route of the race

Route of the race

For the ETAs who ran in the race, toeing the starting line marked the culmination of several months of fundraising for Running 4 Resettlement (R4R), an initiative that was started 2 years ago by former grantee Eric Horvath (ETA 2011-13), and currently headed by  Cait Cronin (ETA 2013-15). Cronin, who also volunteers with NKD tutoring, felt a particular calling to R4R out of her desire to do more for this marginalized group beyond teaching in the classroom. “After volunteering with North Korean Defectors, visiting North Korea personally, tutoring scientists from the DPRK, and learning more about the difficulty of resettling during my internship at NKHR, it was impossible to not be driven to action. While rewarding to see students flourish here in South Korea,” she says, “it is also difficult to think about their cohorts facing unimaginable horrors like human trafficking while still waiting for their own chance. R4R is about coming together to recognize both these connections and inequalities and directly provide basic, essential help to fellow humans in concrete ways.”

The direct, concrete assistance Cronin refers to comes in the form of a “Rescue Fund.” Via R4R, the entirety of the funds raised prior to the race were donated to the Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Rights (NKHR), specifically to their Rescue Fund. Aside from raising awareness of the often-harrowing plights of North Korean refugees through social media campaigns and fundraising events, the Fund assists in the physical extraction of said refugees from China and surrounding countries. Considering the fact that many refugees, especially women, fall prey to labor and sex trafficking after they flee North Korea, the work that NKHR and similar organizations do is crucial.finish

According to NKHR, it costs about $2,500 to bring one refugee to safety in South Korea—all in all, R4R raised roughly $10,758, of which Cait Cronin personally raised a whopping $2,000. The total amount was raised by 224 unique donors, and it will be enough for the Rescue Fund to bring around 5 people to South Korea.

Events like R4R depend on the generosity and commitment of volunteers like Cronin, as well as like the NCHR staff and ETAs who fundraised and attended the race. When asked about what future ETAs and researchers can do regarding the North Korean refugee situation, she responded: “I would absolutely recommend becoming involved in the Fulbright NKD volunteer program if possible in your placement. It does require genuine dedication and commitment– teaching extra hours is never easy, especially one-on-one or to low-level learners. But the challenge is well worth the incredible opportunity to form real, meaningful connections and break down invisible barriers between people and cultures. For ETAs unable to participate in the NKD program, R4R is of course a great way to get involved; we always need help with recruitment and fundraising. Finally, I would suggest reaching out to the many great organizations already working with resettlers here in South Korea, including NKHR, LiNK, and the Daegu Hana Center.”


Beyond Fulbright: Harvard HGSE Alumnae Earn Prestigious Award

July 12th, 2016

It’s neither a surprise nor a secret that members of the Fulbright community go on to do impressive things. Fulbright Korea ETA alumnae Elaine Townsend (2012-2014), a recent Master’s degree recipient from Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), earned a prestigious award in her fields of study. As detailed on the school’s website, the HGSE Intellectual Contribution/Faculty Tribute Award “recognizes 13 students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced the academic life of the community and positively impacted their fellow students. The honorees were nominated by fellow master’s students based on who inspired them, impressed them, and contributed to their own learning throughout the year.

Elaine Townsend (ETA 2012-14) with students

Elaine Townsend (ETA 2012-14) with students

Townsend , who was previously featured on our website, completed her Master’s degree in education from HGSE’s Technology, Innovation, and Education program. After marrying her boyfriend of five years, Townsend will return to her alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There, she will lead curriculum development for the school’s Scholars’ Latino Initiative (SLI) program. The program provides mentorship for Latino high school students.

During her time in Korea, Townsend taught at the Attached Elementary School of Kyungpook National University in Daegu. She utilized technology in the classroom for both managerial aspects and in-class activities, such as student-directed music videos.

Using technology in my classroom opened doors for me to study the intersectionality of technology and education at Harvard,” Townsend said. “Here, my peers and I challenged ourselves to solve large problems within our education system by further examining the digital landscape of our current society.

Townsend’s innovation in the classroom while in Korea clearly primed her for continued success at graduate school. Townsend was also grateful to her students, host family, peers, and co-teachers for the inspiration and encouragement to pursue her field of study. The teaching experience and personal connections that Townsend established during her two years in Korea have left their mark on her. In the same way, Townsend has left her own mark on the Harvard community.


Kimchi and All of Its Friends

July 12th, 2016
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Margaret Cleveland (ETA 2015-16), who teaches at an elementary school in Yeongcheon, making kimchi at a community event.

Jenna Smith, Gwangju- It’s 12:25pm on Wednesday, and I can hear my stomach growling. It’s almost time to eat! I have made it a tradition to ask each class I teach directly before lunch, “What’s on the menu today, folks?”

This question is typically met with a variety of shouts. “Bulgogi.” “Pizza toast.” “Bananas” “Rice.” “Bibimbap.” “I don’t knowwww!” And without a doubt the majority of my students (especially those who have no clue what comestibles are slated for today) will shout, “KIMCHIIIIII!!!!!!!.”

It never fails. Rain or shine. Winter or summer. Friday or Monday. There will be kimchi. Sometimes more than one type of kimchi is served. When I was a fresh transplant at Jangdeok Middle School, I didn’t know this about kimchi. I thought there was only one kind, the red kind. Until one period before lunch, the class captain, Chan In, plucked the scales of ignorance from mine unknowing eyes and revealed to me that today there would be kimchi, but not the red kind.  Gasp. Today we would be feasting on one of kimchi’s peers, the water kind.  

“Jenna Teacher,” Chan In said with a reverential tone one would use when revealing knowledge of utmost importance, “kimchi has really many friends.”

So the red kimchi, formally known as “whole cabbage kimchi” does not stand alone. Instead, its popularity simply reigns supreme over its hundreds of colleagues. Yes, hundreds. More than 100 known varieties of Korea’s national food exist, including water kimchi and radish kimchi.

A legend is born…

According to the Journal of Ethnic Foods, the first written record of kimchi can be dated back to 500 BC. Korea is known for its cold winters and little fertile area, therefore kimchi was first created to extend the life of vegetables. Normally, vegetables would spoil rather quickly, but if you add a mixture of special ingredients, the growth of putrefactive bacteria slows, while the lactic acid bacteria, which changes into a form humans can eat, grows- YUM.

Illustration of Kimchi on Coffee Sleeve by Monica Heilman (ETA 2014-16)

Illustration of Kimchi on Coffee Sleeve by Monica Heilman (ETA 2014-16)

The first kimchies looked much different than what we see today, as they were mostly different types of radish dipped into a salty paste. It was not until the Chosun Dynasty that the infamous red cabbage kimchi, which we know and love today, was presented to the Korean diet.  According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs in Korea, at this time Chinese cabbages were introduced as the main ingredient for making kimchi. Around the same time, hot red peppers were imported from Japan, but it took roughly 200 years until they were actively used as a staple ingredient in the kimchi-making process.

So just how much does Korea love Kimchi?

Well, for starters, Koreans like kimchi so much they figured out how to send it into space. And space kimchi is born (a new friend to add to the list)! Wherever Koreans go, kimchi must also go.

According to the New York Times, the Korean astronaut Ko San believes that space kimchi will not only help him combat homesickness, but it will also allow him to facilitate cultural exchange thousands of miles from earth. Space kimchi also has 1/3 the smell of normal kimchi in the hopes that other astronauts will feel comfortable trying it.

The homesick astronaut reaching for kimchi to comfort himself reminds Jenna of her host father, Yu Hoon.

Jenna explains, “He told me a story about kimchi my first night at his apartment. Yu Hoon lived for 12 years in America working on his PhD. He recalled a time when he was living in Florida without his wife. He was so homesick, he tried to make kimchi. He chuckled as he told me how miserable his kimchi tasted, but he ate it all anyway. Why? ‘Because bad kimchi is better than no kimchi.’”’

For Ji Yoon Noh, kimchi is a very matriarchal food. When she thinks about kimchi, her mind conjures up images of the faces of important women in her life: her mom, her grandmother, her aunts, and the women at her church.

Ji reminisces, “Kimchi is such a staple in Korean cuisine; meals would not be the same without it, yet only about half the population knows how to make it.” Her memories and thoughts of kimchi represent a distinctly female power vehicle. She chuckles as she thinks to herself, “Korean women could control men by withholding the most prized possession in the Korean culture: kimchi.”

So how do current ETA’s feel about kimchi?

Our current class of ETA’s has a range of feelings about the taste of kimchi. Victoria Su discusses the nuances of kimchi’s flavor, writing, “Some kimchi is really good, and some of it is really bad. My host family makes theirs once a year. Host mom said this year’s batch was not so good, but we have to eat it anyway, because we have an entire fridge full of it.”

Monica Mehta honestly reflects on her complex relationship with kimchi, writing, “I finally admitted to myself that I don’t like kimchi. Kimchi bokkeumbap is heaven, but kimchi itself just doesn’t do it for me.”

Grilled or cooked kimchi in a variety of forms seems to be a favorite amongst most ETA’s, but not all.

Abigail Bard admits, “If I don’t eat kimchi every day, I get sad.”

Maggie Johnston concurs, “I love kimchi and will miss it terribly when I go back to the States.”

One thing ETAs can agree on: kimchi is synonymous with community.  Whether you are on the fence about the spiciness, prefer it cooked, favor your host mom’s kimchi to your school cafeteria’s kimchi, or love it just the way it is, kimchi brings people together.

Jenna Smith reflects, “Raw kimchi is too spicy for me (though I love it on the grill), but I will never forget when I got home around 10pm on a Friday night and my host father was spreading newspaper all over the living room floor. He beckoned me over, ‘Let’s make some kimchi, Jenna!’ My host mother supervised from the couch and we got to work. Our batch turned out ‘so, so,’ according to my host mother but I feel particularly inclined to eat it, knowing the effort that we put into that batch.”

Rachel Brooks concurs, “Making kimchi with people is such a great bonding experience.”

Esther Kim had the opportunity to make kimchi from the cabbages her school staff had grown in their own school garden. She reflects, “To grow, make, and eat food together as a community is really beautiful and also celebrates the countless generations of Korean people who’ve taken part in this cultural tradition surrounding kimchi.” kimchi1

What Jenna finds so interesting about kimchi is how ubiquitous it is in Korea especially at mealtime and in the kitchen, given the presence of a fridge devoted solely to it. Jenna waxes rhapsodic, “Meals don’t seem complete without it and I am hard-pressed to think of any food I have a similar relationship to. Though I love my Dad’s cheeseburgers, it’s not the same. I noticed that everyone I spoke to about kimchi: my students, co-teachers, host siblings and parents, ETAs, and even those who are impartial to the taste used a reverential tone when sharing their thoughts.”

Esther Kim notes, “Regardless of how other people may view kimchi (and by extension, Korean Americanness), I think I’ve come to be proud of and celebrate my Korean Americanness – for myself, my family, and not for the acceptance/approval/comfort of others.”

Kimchi is so much more than a food. Its pungent flavor represents an even richer culture and people. Kimchi’s smell does not go unnoticed much like the strength, integrity, and work ethic of the Korean people.  Kimchi, not only has other vegetable friends, but it also counts millions of people as its loyal comrades worldwide and even in space.


Farewell From the 2016 Newsletter Team

July 12th, 2016

Dear Fulbright Korea Alumni,

Another grant year is coming to an end, and we will soon welcome 81 new alumni into our diverse community. This being a time of transition and change, the Newsletter Team has begun to reflect on the significance Fulbright Korea has had in our lives and will have in our future careers. Among the many memorable moments we’ve experienced –living with a homestay family, traveling, forging friendships– serving you all has been our pleasure and something that we take great pride in. Living in Korea, at one point or another, is the string that threads our disparate lives together. We believe this bond remains strong over the years, and can only be further strengthened by our future efforts to reconnect with such an enriching experience. We hope you all continue to connect with Fulbright Korea alumni as time goes by, and we encourage you to contribute to this newsletter in issues to come.

Thanks for reading and see you soon,

The 2016 FKAR Newsletter Team

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Current ETAs: Our Favorite Foods

July 12th, 2016
2015-16 ETAs' favorite Korean dishes

2015-16 ETAs’ favorite Korean dishes


Summer Photo Contest Winner

July 10th, 2016

“Make Your Own Bibimbap”

This issue’s theme is near and dear to our stomachs: nomz (sustenance)
We asked for you to show us your favorite food(s) you’ve eaten during your grant year in Korea, and you didn’t disappoint!

This photo was submitted by Bijou Nguyen, ETA 2014-15.
Her caption: “Make your own bibimbap” in Sejong.

Photo Contest Winner - Bijou Nguyen - Make Your Own Bibimbap


Staying Involved After Fulbright

July 10th, 2016

Involved

The end of the grant year does not mean it is the end of your involvement with Korea. Whether you are leaving Korea in the next few months or have been back in the states for more than ten years, check out these ways to stay involved with Korean affairs and the larger Fulbright community.

FKAR: Fulbright Korea Alumni Relations

Overall, the best resource for Fulbright Korea alumni is FKAR, which offers numerous opportunities to stay connected with Korea and Fulbright. Through FKAR, you can volunteer to do a webinar for current ETAs (past topics include applying to law school, careers in consulting, and careers in university admissions), read about the accomplishments of current and past grantees, or make donations to support current grantee projects. FKAR also has its own alumni database, where you can search for grantees by name, location, occupation, and industry.

In addition to its virtual presence, FKAR plans social events for Fulbrighters in Korea and facilitates meetups and events for alumni in the United States. If you are interested in arranging a stateside meetup in your area, you can contact the social connectors team within FKAR.

Social Media

Keep the conversation going! Join the Fulbright Korea alumni Facebook and LinkedIn communities to chat about current events in Korea and the US, ask questions about teaching or job opportunities, and share experiences at home and abroad.

The Fulbright Commission

Outside of FKAR, the Fulbright Commission and Institute of International Education offer additional resources for alumni, including social media pages, membership in the Fulbright Association, and alumni directories. You can see the full list of alumni resources at http://us.fulbrightonline.org/alumni/state-alumni.

Writing opportunities

Want to share more about your Fulbright experience, or how it has influenced your life in the states? Fulbright Korea’s Infusion literary magazine welcomes submissions from alumni, and so does the Fulbright Student Program blog. As an alumni-oriented organization, FKAR also encourages alumni submissions. If you are interested in being featured as a guest writer or alumni interviewee for the newsletter or the website, please email FKAR.

North Korean Defector programs

During their time in Korea, many Fulbrighters volunteered with North Korean defectors and their families. Though direct contact with defectors is more difficult in the US, nonprofit organizations such as Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) and the North Korea Freedom Coalition offer opportunities for volunteering and fundraising to help defectors. These organizations also release stories about recent defectors and provide information about the challenges that North Koreans face in escaping their homeland and resettling in a new society.

Language exchange

Looking to brush up on those Korean language skills? Websites such as My Language Exchange, WeSpeke and iTalki match language partners around the world. You can conduct conversations over the phone or the Internet. Whether you are fluent or trying to remember a few words of 한국어, language is one of the best ways to connect with Korea.

How have you stayed involved with Korea? Tell us at fulbright.us.alumni@gmail.com.


Alumni Spotlight: Where Are They Now?

July 8th, 2016

The FKAR team had the privilege of interviewing 7 former ETAs working in a variety of fields, including law, academia, writing, marketing, psychology, education policy, and business. Dr. Aaron Pooley, Ben West, Christina Brittain Hatinoglu, Kenzie Grubitz Simpson, and Fulbright sweethearts, Evan Ho and Dr. Jennifer Tang generously offered to share their insights on the Fulbright experience and its impact on the work they do today.

Dr. Aaron Pooley, ETA 2009

 

What is your current occupation?
I currently serve as an assisting professor in the department of English language and literature at Soonchunhyang University (SCHU) in Asan, Korea. After completing my masters degree in applied linguistics from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), I started at SCHU and began preparing my PhD program in linguistics. Both USQ and SCHU have been supportive towards my study and research goals. I currently lecture on English phonetics and phonology, children’s literature and communicative competence.aaron

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
Keep a varied network of friends and acquaintances. It’s easy to form relationships within the ETA program and spend time with other ETAs—especially if they are placed in the same city as you. It’s also easy to get locked into free-time activities in or nearby your placement city. But the ETA grant year is too short to be limited by either. Find out if you have alumni from your home university living in Korea, volunteer outside your placement city, join a language exchange. The options are out there to be discovered.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
Becoming an ETA set a chain of events in motion that—without Fulbright—might never have happened. As an ETA in Korea, my life and my studies are situated in the Asia-Pacific region and influence the research I explore and the career path that lies ahead of me. Korea, as a researcher, is an exciting place to be. In terms of language policies, intercultural communication—the forces of globalization are at work and with those forces enter greater mobility for visitors coming to Korea for the first time and some of the world’s newest mobile devices, applications, and interactive media.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
Leaving orientation and entering a teaching environment coupled with a homestay… those early days brought with them much unknown. I think finding my role at the school and in the homestay—this was the biggest challenge as an ETA.

What is your favorite Korean food?

I change my mind regularly on which Korean food I enjoy most—but my current favorite is a spicy fish porridge, served either with homemade dumplings or ramen. Every Sunday I hit the golf range for a couple hours then head over to a restaurant famous for this dish in Seonga, on the outskirts of Cheonan. Fish porridge…it’s spicy, strange and wonderful.

What is your current state of mind?

It’s spring in Korea—one of the country’s most beautiful seasons. Though there’s plenty of work to be done, it’s important to enjoy the sunshine and the rain—see the green and low lying clouds over the mountains. All is good.

 

Ben West, ETA 2012

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What is your current occupation?
Currently, I am a quantitative research analyst at the American Institutes for Research, one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations. I work on several large-scale evaluations of policies and programs related to educator evaluation and performance. This September, I will return to Harvard University, where I’ll pursue a Ph.D. in Education Program and Policy Evaluation. 

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
I would encourage current ETA’s to really begin to take stock of their skills, interests, and values to begin planning the career that they would like to have before applying to various graduate programs. A roadmap for your future can help you to avoid unwise investments of your time and resources, and lead to a greater sense of meaning in your work.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
I applied to the program to learn more about factors that contributed to the Korean education system’s success. I gained insight into the emphasis placed on education at a societal level, but also learned about some of the nuances that many foreigners are not aware of, including major educational inequities (e.g. differential access to high-quality tutoring) and the adverse effects of the all-work, no-play mentality on children (e.g. Korean 11- to 15-year-olds report the greater amounts of stress than their peers in other developed countries, and suicide is a leading cause of death among teens). Learning about these nuances has helped me to think more carefully about Korea’s education system and what the U.S. can learn from it.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
I joined the Fulbright program after completing a two-year commitment with Teach for America in New York City. Initially, I found it rather difficult to transition from living independently to living with nearly 100 ETA’s and then a host family, but in time, I began to appreciate the incredible relationships that the experience allowed me to build.

 What is your favorite Korean food? What are your thoughts on kimchi?
My favorite Korean food is 삼겹살, though 김치 comes in a close second.

Who are your heroes in real life?
U.S. President Barack Obama, German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, and of course, Mrs. Jai Ok Shim, who I admire for her dedication, commitment, and vision for the Fulbright program in Korea. A number of friends who completed Fulbright grants in other countries have heard about our program’s excellence, and have even referred to it as the “gold standard.” I think that we all have Mrs. Shim to thank for that!

 

Christina Brittain Hatinoglu, ETA 2006

What is your current occupation?
I am a capital markets associate in the London office of Latham & Watkins LLP.

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
Stay in touch with your host family after you leave the program.  I lost touch with mine for several years and was only able to reconnect with my wonderful homestay sister after enlisting the help of former students online.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
After living in Korea, I knew that I wanted to live and work in Asia. I eventually ended up in Europe, but being an ETA probably contributed to my being open to moving to new international settings. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
I found it very hard to come up with new and interesting lesson plans every week. I relied heavily on the shared ETA lesson bank.

What is your favorite Korean food? What are your thoughts on kimchi?
My favorite Korean food varies day to day, but 낙지볶음 (spicy octopus) is always good.  I grew up eating kimchi and feel like it makes almost any meal better. 

Who are your heroes in real life?
One of my college professors is an incredible First Amendment lawyer with a distinguished career. More importantly he is a very generous parent, friend, and mentor.

 

Kenzie Grubitz Simpson, ETA 2004

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What is your current occupation?
I work for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, mainly as a grant writer and language revitalization consultant. I’m also a mother.

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
I’ll pass along the best advice I received while I was an ETA: love your students. They will show you everything you need to know.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
It helped me see how beautiful life is when you’re open to other cultures. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
Classroom management was really hard! Luckily, my co-teachers were very supportive. 

What is your favorite Korean food? What are your thoughts on kimchi?
My favorites are 죽 and 김밥, any kind. I love kimchi. I’ve got my husband hooked on 김치붂음밥, and if I could go back and eat more of my host mom’s 김치찌개, I’d be in heaven.

 

Lauren Hong, ETA 2007

lauren

What is your current occupation?
President/Owner of Out & About Communications (outandaboutcommunications.com), a full-service marketing firm in San Diego, CA.

What is your biggest piece of advice for a current ETA?
My advice for a current ETA is to really embrace the experience. It can feel like a jump in the deep end when you find yourself living in another country. However, there is a lot of strength in feeling uncomfortable, challenging yourself, and pushing beyond limits. Embrace it.

How did your experience as an ETA impact your life’s work?
It’s difficult for me to imagine what my life would be like without my ETA experience. The experience launched me into my career, introduced me to close friends, and gave me a more global outlook.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as an ETA?
The most difficult challenge for me was leaving one extreme environment and transitioning into another totally different environment. When I first arrived in Korea, it was very unfamiliar. I felt like a kid again. I had to relearn language, cultural practices, and social norms. Not to mention, I had my patience challenged daily. These uncomfortable moments helped me to grow personally and professionally.

What is your favorite Korean food? What are your thoughts on kimchi?
Kimchi-chigae is my favorite. I love kimchi. I especially love kimchi on the BBQ grill. Yum!

What is your current state of mind?
Growing my marketing company, providing amazing work and personalized service to our clients, and spending time with my husband, Haney.

 

Evan Ho and Dr. Jennifer Tang, ETA Sweethearts 2005

evanjennifer

What are your current occupations?
Evan: Wealth Management Advisor, TIAA, Ann Arbor, MI 

Jennifer: Licensed psychologist at Cypress Counseling Center, Ann Arbor, MI

What are your biggest pieces of advice for current ETAs?
Evan: Enjoy every minute, it goes by so quickly. Do as many things as you can, build friendships with as many people as you can, and put yourself out of your comfort zone. 

Jennifer: Evan summed it up well. Make friends with the locals and get to know their lived experiences. Korean students often seem enamored with the American culture and English language, so it can be easy to talk with them about that. However, it is even more enriching to also learn from them about their experiences. Also make time to travel and explore both urban and rural parts of the country. Oh, and stock up on all the cute stationery too 😉

How did your experiences as an ETA impact your life’s work?
E: As a Financial Adviser, teaching/presenting financial concepts and learning how to understand and connect with people of different backgrounds were things that were developed while being a ETA in Gwangju. 

J: As a psychologist, when working with my clients, I try to understand how their different experiences and upbringings have shaped their identity, their values, and how they see and interpret the world. My experience as an ETA has helped me to learn more about other worldviews and lived experiences that can shape someone’s personality and mindset.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as ETAs?
E: Being away from home for a year and away from your normal routine and friends was challenging. It was a balance of making the most of the time in Korea and knowing that you’d have ties back at home and transitioning back. 

J: It was an interesting experience for me being Chinese living in Korea, so phenotypically I looked like a native, but it was hard for the natives to cognitively grasp when I would tell them in Korean that I was American, my parents are Chinese. One good thing that came from that though is that I learned more Korean!

What are your favorite Korean foods? What are your thoughts on kimchi?
E: Yukgaejang. I love kimchi! We even recently tried making some ourselves. 

J: I love all things kalbi. Actually some of the things I miss most from Korea, though, were the different seasonal fruit, especially their super sweet strawberries.  

 What do you consider your greatest achievement?
J: Getting my PhD and becoming licensed as a psychologist has been quite the journey! It was definitely a marathon, but it is so great to finally get to practice what I’ve been training for the past several years! It’s hard to pick just one “greatest” accomplishment though. Having our baby has been an amazing and humbling experience too. Also traveling to over 30 countries together with Evan has been priceless.

What is your current state of mind?
E: Because of my experience abroad with Fulbright Korea, I have a love for different cultures and traveling. I’m hoping as a new father, I’m able to teach this appreciation to our daughter, Genevieve.